Yesterday, we learned that Wind Mobile pulled outof a crucial auction for wireless assets -- assets that are crucial to the future of our cell phone market -- only a day before it was set to begin.
Canadians hoped that the government’s spectrum auction which begins today would result in lower prices and improved choice for Canadians. Wind’s withdrawal from the auction has dealt a serious blow to those hopes -- and a renewed call for Industry Minister James Moore to end the government’s piecemeal approach to fixing Canada’s broken wireless market by reining in Big Telecom once and for all.
Here’s what you need to know about the auction -- and how Canadians are reacting online to the news.
What is “wireless spectrum”? Spectrum refers to the crucial radio waves which make all mobile services possible. In short, without spectrum, you would not be able to talk on your cell phone, surf the web on your tablet, or listen to your favourite songs on YouTube on your mobile device.
Why should you care about the auction? Spectrum is a finite resource owned and managed by the government so there is a limited amount of this crucial resource to go around. Big Telecom already owns 85 per cent of Canada’s spectrum making it extremely difficult for indie providers and innovators to reach Canadians -- and leaving cell phone users with few options other than the Big Three’s price-gouging and poor customer service.
Additionally, the type of spectrum that is up for auction is especially prized as it allows for improved cell phone service in basements, elevators, and office buildings. For Canadians in rural areas, this means greater potential for high-speed networks in otherwise poorly serviced areas.
What are Canadians saying? Online reaction to the news of Wind Mobile’s withdrawal has been strong and swift.
- Rita Trichur, the Globe and Mail’s Telecom reporter, called the move a “devastating blow to the federal government’s efforts to ensure sustainable competition in the $20-billion wireless market.”
- The Financial Post’s Christine Dobby referred to Wind’s withdrawal as “another blow to Ottawa’s policy to encourage wireless competition in all areas”.
- According to CBC News: “Without Wind’s bid, Ottawa has failed in its efforts to create a fourth player in the telecom market in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.”
And it’s not just journalists who are reacting to the news. Canadians have taken to social media to lament the announcement.
- @LaRomanBomber decried the “Horrible news!” on Twitter
- A reddit user commented: “Well there goes my hopes of them getting better coverage!”
- Facebook user Ian observed: “Bell and Roger's already have ownership of prime 2.5 GHz spectrum and they are running LTE devices on that spectrum... how is that fair? They are using 2.5GHz LTE spectrum and the auction for the rest of the carriers hasn't even happened yet.”
- user FormerSlacker wrote: “The big 3 win again...yay, another loss for consumers.”
- @JasonLav tweeted quite simply: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
So with Wind Mobile out, now what? If the government does not put an end to Big Telecom’s stranglehold on our cell phone market, Wind’s withdrawal could mean the end of independent cell phone service in Canada.
It’s only thanks to Canadians who have spoken out through our campaigns that decision-makers have finally started to take a stand against Big Telecom’s gatekeeping -- but this slow approach means that government efforts to support Canadians may have been too little too late.
Industry Minister James Moore has clearly promised to lower prices and improve choice for Canadians. Today’s news means it’s now more important than ever to see action from the government. The Minister needs to finally stop Big Telecom from blocking Canadians' access to affordable, independent options. That means opening the networks so all providers, large and small, can operate on a level playing field with the Big Three. This idea has been tried in other countries and it successfully lowered prices -- if it works in the U.K. and elsewhere, why should Canada be left behind? Over to you Minister Moore -- Canadians are watching.
Over 70,000 Canadians have spoken out to call for lower prices and greater telecom choice using OpenMedia.ca’s online tools at https://OpenMedia.ca/Gatekeepers and http://DemandChoice.ca. Together, we’ve also created a roadmap to fix our broken telecom markethttps://OpenMedia.ca/UpgradeCanada. The time has come to push for change -- let’s keep at it until we win, Canada.
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